LAGOS, Nigeria — Security forces raided areas near the site of two bombings in Nigeria’s capital and detained eight suspects including foreigners on Saturday, the Ministry of Defense announced as the city prepared to host a three-day international conference.
All schools and government offices in Abuja, the capital in central Nigeria, will close during the May 7-9 World Economic Forum on Africa, according to a presidential order that follows two bomb attacks in three weeks that killed nearly 100 people. Islamic extremists are blamed for both.
A statement Friday night said the measure “is to ease the flow of traffic” during the conference, to which hundreds of international personalities, business and African leaders are invited. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is the guest of honor.
One more victim died in the hospital, raising the toll to 20 dead from Thursday’s bombing, the permanent secretary of health, Dr. Demola Onakomaiya, said Saturday. He appealed to relatives to claim the corpses, saying hospital morgues are overloaded and still hold many victims from the April 14 blast that killed at least 75 people. A final toll, to include pathologists’ estimates of the number blown apart by the powerful explosion, has never been given.
The government said it is deploying 6,000 police and troops to help secure the event, and President Goodluck Jonathan has assured delegates they will be safe.
Further indicating Nigeria’s security threats, the U.S. Embassy warned Americans in an email Friday that “groups associated with terrorism” may be planning “an unspecified attack” on a Sheraton hotel in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.
The hotel chain has two locally owned franchises in the southwestern city of about 20 million people. A duty manager at the $350-a-night Sheraton in Ikeja suburb, near the international airport, said he was unaware of any threat. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.
Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, the Defense Ministry spokesman said in a statement Saturday that the eight people detained Saturday “are helping ongoing investigation with useful information.” He said most of them are foreigners, without identifying nationalities.
In a separate operation in the northeast, he said a Chadian named Usman Mecheka who was “operating with the terrorists around Lake Chad” has been detained. Olukolade said the Chaidan had been trying to extract a ransom from herdsmen and farmers after an earlier attack.
Extremists killed four villagers in a pre-dawn attack Saturday on the outskirts of Maiduguri, capital of the northeastern state of Borno, the spokesman said. Security forces used mortar shells to repel the militants and kept them out of the city, he said.
Explosions on April 14 and May 1 in Abuja, in the center of the country, are blamed on the Islamic extremists Boko Haram terrorist network which has recruited fighters in neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon amid fears that its 5-year-old uprising could spread in the region. More than 1,500 people have been killed in the insurgency this year, compared to an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.